Gender parity in the boards of JSE-listed companies remains an elusive concept overall as men continue to dominate the largest number of higher positions in relation to women.
The Status of Gender on JSE-listed boards report revealed that there were 897 male non-executive directors on JSE-listed boards compared to 480 women non-executive directors, with board chairs being 83% male and 17% female.
In terms of JSE-listed company CEOs, 226 were men compared to only 18 women, and the ratio of chief financial officers was 164 males to 45 females.
The report, which was released yesterday (MON), suggested there has been an improvement in gender representation metrics on these boards, but there remained a lot that needs to be done.
Now in its sixth year, the report was compiled from information publicly available in the form of company Integrated Annual Reports for the reporting period 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022.
The report monitors adherence to the requirement that all JSE-listed companies have a policy on gender at the board level with a requirement to report to their stakeholders on such policy and follow the associated trends.
The research was conducted by Business Engage in association with the Institute of Directors SA, and 30% Club South Africa, and is sponsored by Nedbank and the global management consultancy Kearney.
The 2022 edition of the report included a reflection of the progress made over the previous five years.
The authors felt that the JSE listing requirement – to have a gender policy at the board level and to advise stakeholders accordingly – has had a positive and sustainable effect on the appointment of women to the boards and committees of JSE-listed companies.
It was also pointed out that the various iterations of the King Codes played a role in creating a conducive environment for this advancement.
Business Engage CEO Colleen Larsen said a report published by Deloitte a few years ago stated inter alia that companies took generally around five years to comply with any new legislation.
Larsen said the companies that were going to make a meaningful change would have done so by now since it was past that five-year point.
“Change is happening, even if it is still incremental. We present this report as a way of contributing to this process of change and we welcome the engagement of stakeholders in the process,” Larsen said.
Earlier this year, Norway’s government reached an agreement with the business lobby and unions to force large and medium-sized companies to phase in 40% female representation on their boards within five years.
The plan, believed to be the first of its kind globally, will initially cover about 8 000 companies next year and expand to encompass about 20 000 companies with more than 30 employees by 2028.
“Is this the example we should be following as our next step?” asked Larsen.
“We need to be asking tough and important questions as we consider what to do next, to achieve better gender representation for JSE-listed Boards.”
During the research period of this report, there were 281 companies listed on the main and AltX boards of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, but only 247 were analysed as 34 companies were omitted from the research.
The report states that 69 companies did not specifically report on gender at the board level in 2022.
According to the report, 44 companies have already achieved their targets in terms of gender policy, while 37 companies analysed have already achieved gender parity or better.
A further 33 companies are close to achieving parity whereby the appointment of one female to the board in place of a male member will achieve such parity.
Currently, there are 40 potential “One and Doners”, those companies that set a once-off target and never review their gender representation.
Nedbank chief legal counsel Zanele Mngadi said board diversity was important for companies to remain relevant and sustainable in a fast-transforming society,
“Studies show that diversity matters, as companies that embrace gender, race, and ethnic diversity achieve better financial performance,” Mngadi said.
“As an organisation the Nedbank Group has strived for a diverse and transformed board that closely reflects the demographics of South Africa.”
Kearney senior advisor Jo-Ann Pohl said the corporate sector must champion gender diversity, particularly within upper management and leadership roles.
“We must build on what we have done and be deliberate about what we do next, as success in corporate leadership and boards hinges on embracing the principle of true inclusion and equality,” Pohl said.
“Achieving gender equality transcends mere statistics; it's about creating tangible empowerment opportunities based on individual capabilities and actions, rather than gender.”